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Delta Career Fair: Trailer Technician

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When high school field trips meander through Ocean Trailer’s huge facility in Tilbury Industrial Park most students mainly look and nod quietly. But a select few see a golden career opportunity.

“It’s not too often that you get students that come through that interject themselves and ask questions and have some real interest in what’s happening the shop,” says Ocean Trailer’s president Sid Keay, who has 35 years experience in the tractor trailer industry. “So when you get that you know you’ve got somebody who’ll probably go far in the trade.”

That somebody might be 18-year-old Jake Howatt, of Delta, who visited Ocean Trailer in the Spring of 2014 and began apprenticing as a trailer technician shortly after.

“I wanted to get into something like this,” says Jake. “I always used to help my dad out working on cars and trucks so I wanted to get into transportation or automotive.”

Despite his age, this young man is on the fast track to success. With just 4,500 hours required to write the exam, he could become a red seal certified trailer technician by the age of 20 or 21, making upwards of $35 an hour.

Similar to a heavy duty technician, trailer technicians learn a variety of skills such as fabricating, repairs and welding, among other lifelong skills.

“It’s been difficult,” admits Jake, with an enthusiastic smile. “But you learn something every day. My parents were happy for me. I wanted to get in early, get my foot in the door as soon as possible.”

Jake has some great examples to look up to. His journeyman, Les “Sam” Mattison, has 25 years experience with Ocean Trailer, and is one of 80 trailer technicians who is teaching Jake the ropes.

“He’s got a lot of guys to choose from,” says Sam. “As long as he doesn’t mind getting tossed around because now he’s learning how to do body work. He’s pretty much learned everything about the doors now so I can’t really teach him more about that.”

So, what does it take to succeed in this job? Sam says it’s for people who love to get hands on and don’t mind getting a bit dirty.

DSC_3104“Somebody who doesn’t want to sit somewhere and push buttons. Because this work is quite physical.”

Sid agrees, adding he’s a believer that if you start young and put in the hours your skills will always be in demand by employers.

“It takes motivation and drive, something we see in Jake. We want someone who has interest and really wants to be here and make a career for themselves. This skill is huge. If you listen on the news everybody is talking about trades and construction. We’re experiencing a total lack of ticketed people in this field as well.  There’s just not enough people.”

With the “graying” population in Canada and many long-term Ocean Trailer employees with 20 plus years experience soon retiring, the industry needs some young blood.

“That’s why we’re focusing on telling young people this is a viable trade and you can be working and make good money in a short period of time,” says Jackie Grant, Human Resources. “And a lot of people aren’t aware you can be a trailer technician.”

Ocean Trailer is one of several companies offering exciting career opportunities at the Delta Trades and Technical Career Fair on April 28.

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